September 2009 | 61
Creativity plays a critical role in the innovation process, and innovation that markets value is a creator and sustainer of performance and change. In organizations, stimulants and obstacles to creativity drive or impede enterprise.
Harnessing Creativity and Innovation in the Workplace1
By Olivier Serrat Introduction
Creativity has always been at the heart of human endeavor. Allied to innovation, which creates unexpected value, it is now recognized as central to organizational performance. (Some hold that the capacity to harness intellectual and social capital—and to convert that into novel and appropriate things—has become the critical organizational requirement of the age.) The shift to knowledge economies has been abrupt and there is a flurry of interest in creativity and innovation in the workplace. Innovation is considered, quite simply, an imperative for organizational survival. It may even be the key to some of the biggest challenges facing the world, such as global warming and sustainable development. Notwithstanding, we are still far from a theory of organizational creativity: the avenues for promising research that might contribute to its emergence are innumerable because of the increasing use of systems approaches and the growing number of agents involved in knowledge flows.2 There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns. —Edward de Bono 1
These Knowledge Solutions do not discuss intellectual property, the new knowledge that arises out of the innovation process, nor the management systems that identify, protect, value, manage, and audit an organization’s intellectual property, e.g., copyrights, trademarks, patents, etc. Usefully, given the plethora of opportunities, systemized research might cover four distinct stages: (i) ideas capture, (ii) growth and development, (iii) demonstration, and (iv) application. In general, little work has been done on what types of innovation have the biggest or most significant impact, and in what contexts.
Creativity3 is the mental and social process—fuelled by conscious or unconscious insight—of generating ideas, concepts, and associations.4 Innovation5 is the successful6 exploitation of new ideas: it is a profitable outcome of the creative process, which involves generating and applying in a specific context products, services, procedures, and processes that are desirable and viable. Naturally, people who create and people who innovate can have different attributes and perspectives.
It follows, then, that innovation begins with creativity. In the world of organizations, be they private or public, lack of either leads to stagnation, and leaves an organization unable to perform or meet change.7 However, creative thinking cannot be turned on and off at the flick of a switch. And innovation does not occur in a vacuum; it requires effective strategies and frameworks, among which incentives are paramount. Creativity flourishes in organizations that support open ideas:8 these organizations create environments that inspire personnel and maintain innovative workplaces; those that fail are large organizations that stifle creativity with rules and provide no slack for change. There is a role for management in the creative process: but it is not to manage it; it is to manage for it. Why? Because creativity does not happen exclusively and tacitly in a person’s head but in interaction with a social context wherein it may be codified. For any organization, operating in an external environment, an interactionist model of creativity and innovation needs to encompass organizational context, organizational knowledge, and inter- and intraorganizational relationships, not forgetting the (increasingly multicultural) creative makeup of the individuals...
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